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Fertigation boosts productivity in Northland avocado orchard

Avocado Orchard using Fertigation

Fertigation boosts productivity in Northland avocado orchard

Looking to be involved with an orchard from its development through to full production, Nick Common joined Harbour Edge Avocados seven years ago. Having studied horticulture and spent time working within the irrigation industry, Nick soon saw the benefit of installing fertigation on the orchard to deliver nutrients directly to the trees.

The 150 ha orchard is based in Tapora on the Okahukura Peninsula. The business has a team of six permanent staff members, including Nick, as well as from 15 to 20 casuals during peak season. Over 90 percent of the avocados grown on the orchard are Hass, although Carmen Hass, Reed, and Maluma are grown too. 

With free-draining sandy soils, Nick explains that sprinklers irrigate the orchard every day during summer. For this reason, the system could be easily adapted and used to inject fertiliser through the lines. The decision to move to fertigation has proven highly successful, says Nick, with the sandy soil offering little or no nutrients to the avocado trees. 

“We deliver fertiliser as we’re irrigating. This is efficient and more cost-effective as this system requires less labour than if we were driving through the orchard every month applying hard fertiliser and fertigation allows the tree to take up the soluble fertiliser in small doses frequently.”  

Nick sees the production benefits of using fertigation by simply looking at the avocado trees. “We now have good summer growth – you can almost see the trees growing from week to week in response to the fertiliser. The fruit size is good too and it is pleasing to see the orchard’s production is lifting year-on-year.” 

Nick appreciates the support and technical advice he receives from Fruitfed Supplies Area Sales Manager Craig Lamb in conjunctiuon with Yara NZ. Both, Nick says, have been instrumental in developing the fertigation programme. 

“Initially, to develop the programme, we completed soil tests and then sat down and calculated our crop removal for the year and predicted tree growth. Every year, we review the programme taking into account the increase in crop size and tree growth.” 

Having been a customer of Fruitfed Supplies for the length of time he’s been at Harbour Edge Avocados, Nick says Craig is key to the operation, supplying orchard inputs and technical advice. Nick appreciates Craig’s proactive nature which ensures products arrive on time, contributing to the operation’s smooth running. 

Nick recommends a fertigation system as an efficient way to delivering fertiliser directly to trees. He notes that initially marrying fertigation into the irrigation system took time and effort, though now they have it ‘down pat’. He believes the effort was well worth it and has seen an increase in productivity compared to when they applied bulk solid fertiliser.